How The Fair Geraldine Bestowed A Relic Upon Her Lover





Surrey and Richmond agreed to say nothing for the present of their

mysterious adventure in the forest; but their haggard looks, as they

presented themselves to the Lady Anne Boleyn in the reception-chamber on

the following morning, proclaimed that something had happened, and they

had to undergo much questioning from the Fair Geraldine and the Lady

Mary Howard.



"I never saw you so out of spirits, my lord," remarked the Fair

Geraldine to Surrey; "you must have spent the whole night in study--or

what is more probable, you have again seen Herne the Hunter. Confess

now, you have been in the forest."



"I will confess anything you please," replied Surrey evasively.



"And what have you seen?--a stranger vision than the first?" rejoined

the Fair Geraldine.



"Since your ladyship answers for me, there is no need for explanation on

my part," rejoined Surrey, with a faint laugh. "And know you not, that

those who encounter super natural beings are generally bound to profound

secrecy?"



"Such, I hope, is not your case, Henry?" cried the Lady Mary Howard, in

alarm;--"nor yours, my lord?" she added to the Duke of Richmond.



"I am bound equally with Surrey," returned the duke mysteriously



"You pique my curiosity, my lords," said the Fair Geraldine; "and since

there is no other way of gratifying it, if the Lady Mary Howard will

accompany me, we will ourselves venture into the forest, and try whether

we cannot have a meeting with this wild huntsman. Shall we go to-night?



"Not for worlds," replied the Lady Mary, shuddering; "were I to see

Herne, I should die of fright."



"Your alarm is groundless," observed Richmond gallantly. "The presence

of two beings, fair and pure as yourself and the Lady Elizabeth

Fitzgerald, would scare away aught of evil."



The Lady Mary thanked him with a beaming smile, but the Fair Geraldine

could not suppress a slight laugh.



"Your grace is highly flattering," she said. "But, with all faith

in beauty and purity, I should place most reliance in a relic I

possess--the virtue of which has often been approved against evil

spirits. It was given by a monk--who had been sorely tempted by a demon,

and who owed his deliverance to it--to my ancestor, Luigi Geraldi of

Florence; and from him it descended to me."



"Would I had an opportunity of proving its efficacy!" exclaimed the Earl

of Surrey.



"You shall prove it, if you choose," rejoined the Fair Geraldine. "I

will give you the relic on condition that you never part with it to

friend or foe."



And detaching a small cross of gold, suspended by a chain from her neck,

she presented it to the Earl of Surrey.



"This cross encloses the relic," she continued; "wear it, and may it

protect you from all ill!"



Surrey's pale cheek glowed as he took the gift. "I will never past

with it but with life," he cried, pressing the cross to his lips, and

afterwards placing it next his heart.



"I would have given half my dukedom to be so favoured," said Richmond

moodily.



And quitting the little group, he walked towards the Lady Anne. "Henry,"

said the Lady Mary, taking her brother aside, "you will lose your

friend."



"I care not," replied Surrey.



"But you may incur his enmity," pursued the Lady Mary. "I saw the glance

he threw at you just now, and it was exactly like the king's terrible

look when offended."



"Again I say I care not," replied Surrey. "Armed with this relic, I defy

all hostility."



"It will avail little against Richmond's rivalry and opposition,"

rejoined his sister.



"We shall see," retorted Surrey. "Were the king himself my rival, I

would not resign my pretensions to the Fair Geraldine."



"Bravely resolved, my lord," said Sir Thomas Wyat, who, having overheard

the exclamation, advanced towards him. "Heaven grant you may never be

placed in such jeopardy!"



"I say amen to that prayer, Sir Thomas," rejoined Surrey "I would not

prove disloyal, and yet under such circumstances--"



"What would you do?" interrupted Wyat.



"My brother is but a hasty boy, and has not learned discretion, Sir

Thomas," interposed the Lady Mary, trying by a significant glance to

impose silence on the earl.



"Young as he is, he loves well and truly," remarked Wyat, in a sombre

tone.



"What is all this?" inquired the Fair Geraldine, who had been gazing

through the casement into the court below.



"I was merely expressing a wish that Surrey may never have a monarch for

a rival, fair lady," replied Wyat.



"It matters little who may be his rival," rejoined Geraldine, "provided

she he loves be constant."



"Right, lady, right," said Wyat, with great bitterness. At this moment

Will Sommers approached them. "I come to bid you to the Lady Anne's

presence, Sir Thomas, and you to the king's, my lord of Surrey," said

the jester. "I noticed what has just taken place," he remarked to the

latter, as they proceeded towards the royal canopy, beneath which Henry

and the Lady Anne Boleyn were seated; "but Richmond will not relinquish

her tamely, for all that."



Anne Boleyn had summoned Sir Thomas Wyat, in order to gratify her vanity

by showing him the unbounded influence she possessed over his royal

rival; and the half-suppressed agony displayed by the unfortunate lover

at the exhibition afforded her a pleasure such as only the most refined

coquette can feel.



Surrey was sent for by the king to receive instructions, in his quality

of vice-chamberlain, respecting a tilting-match and hunting-party to be

held on successive days--the one in the upper quadrangle of the castle,

the other in the forest.



Anxious, now that he was somewhat calmer, to avoid a rupture with

Richmond, Surrey, as soon as he had received the king's instructions,

drew near the duke; and the latter, who had likewise reasoned himself

out of his resentment, was speedily appeased, and they became, to all

appearance, as good friends as ever.



Soon afterwards the Lady Anne and her dames retired, and the court

breaking up, the two young nobles strolled forth to the stately terrace

at the north of the castle, where, while gazing at the glorious view it

commanded, they talked over the mysterious event of the previous night.



"I cannot help suspecting that the keeper we beheld with the demon

hunter was Morgan Fenwolf," remarked the earl. "Suppose we make inquiry

whether he was at home last night. We can readily find out his dwelling

from Bryan Bowntance, the host of the Garter."



Richmond acquiesced in the proposal, and they accordingly proceeded

to the cloisters of Saint George's Chapel, and threading some tortuous

passages contrived among the canons' houses, passed through a small

porch, guarded by a sentinel, and opening upon a precipitous and

somewhat dangerous flight of steps, hewn out of the rock and leading to

the town.



None except the more important members of the royal household were

allowed to use this means of exit from the castle, but, of course, the

privilege extended to Richmond and Surrey. Here in later times, and when

the castle was not so strictly guarded, a more convenient approach

was built, and designated, from the number of its stairs, "The Hundred

Steps."



Having accomplished the descent in safety, and given the password to the

sentinel at the foot of the steps, the two young nobles emerged into the

street, and the first object they beheld was the body of the miserable

butcher swinging from the summit of the Curfew Tower, where it was left

by order of the king.



Averting their gaze from this ghastly spectacle, they took their way up

Thames Street, and soon reached the Garter. Honest Bryan was seated on a

bench before the dwelling, with a flagon of his own ale beside him,

and rising as he saw the others approach, he made them a profound

salutation.



Upon leaning what they sought, he told them that Morgan Fenwolf dwelt

in a small cottage by the river-side not far from the bridge, and if

it pleased them, he would guide them to it himself--an offer which they

gladly accepted.



"Do you know anything of this Fenwolf?" asked Surrey, as they proceeded

on their way.



"Nothing particular," replied Bryan, with some hesitation. "There are

some strange reports about him, but I don't believe 'em."



"What reports are they, friend?" asked the Duke of Richmond.



"Why, your grace, one ought to be cautious what one says, for fear of

bringing an innocent man into trouble," returned the host. "But if the

truth must be spoken, people do say that Morgan Fenwolf is in league

with the devil--or with Herne the Hunter, which is the same thing."



Richmond exchanged a look with his friend.



"Folks say strange sights have been seen in the forest of late," pursued

Bryan--"and it may be so. But I myself have seen nothing--but then, to

be sure, I never go there. The keepers used to talk of Herne the

Hunter when I was a lad, but I believe it was only a tale to frighten

deer-stealers; and I fancy it's much the same thing now."



Neither Surrey nor Richmond made any remark, and they presently reached

the keeper's dwelling.



It was a small wooden tenement standing, as the host had stated, on the

bank of the river, about a bow-shot from the bridge. The door was opened

by Bryan, and the party entered without further ceremony. They found

no one within except an old woman, with harsh, wrinkled features, and a

glance as ill-omened as that of a witch, whom Bryan Bowntance told them

was Fenwolf's mother. This old crone regarded the intruders uneasily.



"Where is your son, dame?" demanded the duke.



"On his walk in the forest," replied the old crone bluntly.



"What time did he go forth?" inquired Surrey.



"An hour before daybreak, as is his custom," returned the woman, in the

same short tone as before.



"You are sure he slept at home last night, dame?" said Surrey.



"As sure as I am that the question is asked me," she replied. "I can

show you the very bed on which he slept, if you desire to see it. He

retired soon after sunset--slept soundly, as he always sleeps--and arose

as I have told you. I lighted a fire, and made him some hot pottage

myself."



"If she speaks the truth, you must be mistaken," observed Richmond in a

whisper to his friend.



"I do not believe her," replied Surrey, in the same tone. "Show us his

chamber, dame."



The old crone sullenly complied, and, throwing open a side door,

disclosed an inner apartment, in which there was a small bed. There

was nothing noticeable in the room except a couple of fishing-nets, a

hunting-spear, and an old cross-bow. A small open casement looked upon

the river, whose clear sparkling waters flowed immediately beneath it.



Surrey approached the window, and obtained a fine view of the Brocas

meads on the one hand, and the embowered college of Eton on the other.

His attention, however, was diverted by a fierce barking without, and

the next moment, in spite of the vociferations of the old woman, a large

black staghound, which Surrey recognised as Fenwolf's dog, Bawsey, burst

through the door, and rushed furiously towards him. Surrey drew his

dagger to defend himself from the hound's attack, but the precaution

was needless. Bawsey's fierceness changed suddenly to the most abject

submission, and with a terrified howl, she retreated from the room with'

her tail between her legs. Even the old woman uttered a cry of surprise.



"Lord help us!" exclaimed Bryan; "was ever the like o' that seen? Your

lordship must have a strange mastery over dogs. That hound," he added,

in a whisper, "is said to be a familiar spirit."



"The virtue of the relic is approved," observed Surrey to Richmond, in

an undertone.



"It would seem so," replied the duke.



The old woman now thought proper to assume a more respectful demeanour

towards her visitors, and inquired whether her son should attend upon

them on his return from the forest, but they said it was unnecessary.



"The king is about to have a grand hunting-party the day after

to-morrow," observed Surrey, "and we wished to give your son some

instructions respecting it. They can, however, be delivered to another

keeper."



And they departed with Bryan, and returned to the castle. At midnight

they again issued forth. Their steeds awaited them near the upper gate,

and, mounting, they galloped across the greensward in the direction of

Herne's Oak. Discerning no trace of the ghostly huntsman, they shaped

their course towards the forest.



Urging their steeds to their utmost speed, and skirting the long avenue,

they did not draw the rein till they reached the eminence beyond it;

having climbed which, they dashed down the farther side at the same

swift pace as before. The ride greatly excited them, but they saw

nothing of the wild huntsman; nor did any sound salute their ears except

the tramp of their own horses, or the occasional darting forth of a

startled deer.



Less than a quarter of an hour brought them to the haunted beech-tree;

but all was as silent and solitary here as at the blasted oak. In vain

Surrey smote the tree. No answer was returned to the summons; and,

finding all efforts to evoke the demon fruitless, they quitted the

spot, and, turning their horses' heads to the right, slowly ascended the

hill-side.



Before they had gained the brow of the hill the faint blast of a horn

saluted their ears, apparently proceeding from the valley near the

lake. They instantly stopped and looked in that direction, but could

see nothing. Presently, however, the blast was repeated more loudly than

before, and, guided by the sound, they discerned the spectral huntsman

riding beneath the trees at some quarter of a mile's distance.



Striking spurs into their steeds, they instantly gave him chase; but

though he lured them on through thicket and over glade--now climbing

a hill, now plunging into a valley, until their steeds began to show

symptoms of exhaustion--they got no nearer to him; and at length, as

they drew near the Home Park, to which he had gradually led them, he

disappeared from view.



"I will take my station near the blasted oak," said Surrey, galloping

towards it: "the demon is sure to revisit his favourite tree before

cock-crowing."



"What is that?" cried the Earl of Surrey, pointing to a strange and

ghastly-looking object depending from the tree. "Some one has hanged

himself! It may be the caitiff, Morgan Fenwolf."



With one accord they dashed forward, and as they drew nearer the tree,

they perceived that the object that had attracted their attention was

the body of Mark Fytton, the butcher, which they had so recently seen

swinging from the summit of the Curfew Tower. It was now suspended from

an arm of the wizard oak.



A small scroll was stuck upon the breast of the corpse, and, taking it

off, Surrey read these words, traced in uncouth characters--"Mark Fytton

is now one of the band of Herne the Hunter."



"By my fay, this passes all comprehension," said Richmond, after a few

moments' silence. "This castle and forest seem under the sway of the

powers of darkness. Let us return. I have had enough of adventure for

to-night."



And he rode towards the castle, followed more slowly by the earl.





How The Earl Of Surrey And The Fair Geraldine Plighted Their Troth In The Cloisters Of Saint George's Chapel How The King And The Duke Of Suffolk Were Assailed By Herne's Band facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback